Pariah Hands-On - Multiplayer

We get the opportunity to check out Pariah's multiplayer and level editor.

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Developer Digital Extremes is best known for codeveloping many of the Unreal games with Epic Games. But now the company is working on Pariah, a first-person shooter that's built on the Unreal Tournament graphics engine. Digital Extremes announced the game earlier this year, and we had a chance to check out the progress that's been made since then at a recent press event. At this point, Pariah is pretty much feature-complete, but it's not done yet. Digital Extremes still has plenty of testing, balancing, and bug fixing to do before the game is ready to ship. Still, we had the opportunity to check out the game's multiplayer for the first time.

The Wasp is a fast three-wheeled ATV with a punch.
The Wasp is a fast three-wheeled ATV with a punch.

Pariah is set in 2520, and you play as a military doctor who is evacuating a quarantined patient off a planet when the transport is shot down and you're left on your own. One of the game's prominent features is that all its weapons can be upgraded by collecting what are known as "weapon energy cores." Each weapon can be upgraded three times, and part of the strategy in the game is in deciding which weapons to upgrade. Taking the frag rifle as an example, the first upgrade adds a servo reloader that makes it load faster. The second upgrade is a magneto concentrator that makes it more powerful, and the third upgrade adds a titanium concentrator for the ultimate punch. Meanwhile, the sniper rifle can be upgraded with a cool infrared sight, or with armor-piercing capability to shoot through the shields that some enemies carry. And the rocket launcher, which fires four rockets simultaneously, can be upgraded so you can lock on to four separate enemies at once. In multiplayer, you'll be able to collect weapon energy cores off the bodies of your fallen opponents to upgrade your weapons, though weapons will have only two upgrade slots in multiplayer.

At the beginning of each multiplayer match, you'll choose a class, which determines your weapon loadout for the game. In general, you'll be able to carry only two weapons, as well as the bone saw, which is used for melee combat or as a weapon of last resort if you run out of ammunition. Thankfully, you can pick up ammo from your defeated foes. Pariah also features a number of vehicles that you can use in battle, including the Wasp, a three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, as well as a futuristic four-wheeled vehicle with powerful dual rocket launchers. We noticed that the game also incorporates a health system not unlike the one found in The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. That system has been slightly modified for Pariah. It consists mainly of a series of boxes that represent your health. When you sustain damage, a box will drain, but if you can find cover, a partially-drained box will restore itself. However, if a box is completely drained, you'll need to use a med pack to restore it. So, as with Halo's shield system, this will force you to in battles to find cover and buy enough time for your health to restore.

These guys carry shields, so use armor-piercing upgrades on your guns, or explosives.
These guys carry shields, so use armor-piercing upgrades on your guns, or explosives.

One of the more intriguing aspects of Pariah is that the Xbox version will ship with a true rarity for console games: a built-in level editor that lets you create custom levels and share them with other players online. While PC games have allowed players to create maps for over a decade (and the PC version of Pariah will also include a level editor), this is a rare feature for console games. Of course, one of the challenges is to create a level editor that's easy to use with a console gamepad. Pariah's editor feels very much like the one found in games such as SimCity, and it's icon-driven, so all you have to do is select an action, such as raise or lower terrain, and then move the editor over the map and press a button. The game will keep track of the number and types of objects that you place on a given map, and a "usage meter" will warn you when you're approaching the limit of allowable objects and players for the level. (So you can't necessarily pile up dozens of vehicles, buildings, and scenery objects in the same level.) When you're done creating your level, you can save it to your hard drive, and when you play a game on Xbox Live using that map, anyone who connects to your game will automatically download and install it seamlessly. The file sizes are quite small, so players won't notice any appreciable difference between loading custom levels and those that ship with the game.

Pariah is shaping up quite well, and both the PC and Xbox versions look good. There's a lot of graphical detail in the world, and the game looks like it takes advantage of both platforms' hardware. The Xbox version of the game will likely be completed first, and Digital Extremes plans to use the lead time between the two versions to differentiate the PC version a bit by adding some extra content. If all goes according to plan, we should see Pariah ship sometime this spring.

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